“Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it’s forgivable to go a*s to mouth.”- Becky (Rosario Dawson) in “Clerks 2″

Tom Six’s “The Human Centipede” is a very troubling film and not just because of it’s disgusting subject matter. In case you haven’t heard, the film is about crazed Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) who kidnaps some hapless tourists in Germany in order to conduct a horrible medical experiment. Dr. Heiter’s plan is to take three people he’s kidnapped and surgically attach them a*s to mouth to a*s to mouth to create a Siamese triplet or human centipede, connected by one long gastrointestinal tract. Let’s just say if you aren’t the head on this thing, you’re hating life a little more than your fellow torture victims, especially at mealtime. As troubling and (let’s face it, gross) as that all is, the subject matter isn’t what’s bugging me so much. What’s eating at me is that the film got to me when it really had no business doing so.

For starters, “The Human Centipede” is a dumb movie. There wasn’t a single moment in the film where I wasn’t keenly aware I was watching a film and a fairly bad B-film at that. Dieter Laser as Heiter seemed to me like he was trying too hard to be weird and creepy and as a result, his performance is way over the top and all the strings of bad acting glared on the screen. When the two unfortunate female American tourists (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) are captured and the nefarious plan is set into action, all I kept thinking was how rough it must have been for these women to get acting roles if “The Human Centipede” seemed desirable to them. Still, films like Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” and Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible” are difficult films that through the use of point of view, highly stylized editing and breaking the fourth wall let the audience know they’re watching a movie. “The Human Centipede” uses gross ideas and bad acting to let us know that and, as a result, it makes the film seem really dumb. But I would be lying if I said the film didn’t freak me out well after it had ended.

Horror films are like porn in that you pretty much know what you’re going to get so you set yourself up for that visceral thrill. In “The Human Centipede” you know these girls are going to end up finger-cuffed, a*s to mouth and thus the foreplay becomes all about who the number three segment will be, how the procedure will go, what happens next and then, catharsis. Much like the aforementioned Haneke film, it’s always up to the audience how much you want to see and he knew this which is why I love “Funny Games” so much. You can leave at any time but you don’t want to leave, do you? Well, I sure did during “The Human Centipede” and yet the combination of cheap thrill and laughably bad acting kind of kept me pinned to my seat. Plus, for all its chincy, cheap subject matter, the film is beautifully shot. As the plot played out and pretty much got grosser, weirder and more idiotic still, there I sat. Movies like this are as much about the viewer as they are what’s happening on-screen. In fact, those two things are keys to shockers like “The Human Centipede.” But again, I hearken back to better-made shock fare to show why, at the end of the day, this film kind of sucks.

Even in a sleazy film like “Hostel,” there’s hope of escape and then, payback. Sure, it’s a sad and scary comment on the viewer who wants to participate in the bloodlust, but it’s an undeniable truth to the best in shock horror. In “The Human Centipede,” I never felt these people could escape and thus Heiter would never pay. I didn’t really care either which is where the film falls flat. Still, the film is in my conscience on a daily basis and I guess that’s effective filmmaking. I just feel like I was kind of ripped off because it’s the cinematic equivalent of pulling the wings off of a fly and watching it squirm until dead.

Another, better example of a similar film is Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left.” When the beautiful daughter in the film is raped and killed, I wanted to see the bad guys get it. I stuck through that extremely uncomfortable film because the catharsis needed was to see these people pay dearly for what they did to an innocent. While we most certainly want to see Dr. Heiter pay for what he’s done, there’s really no way retribution would pay off enough.

Plus the girls in this film are mere props and are given zero background and as actors, they perform really, really poorly in the film. That is until they aren’t able to use their mouths anymore then they truly are plot pieces and scarcely human at all. But for the complete lack of character development and bad acting, the closing scene of the film has had a lasting effect on me that lingers days later, much like the effect “Last House on the Left” had on me years ago. But with “The Human Centipede” it feels bad to be so affected by such a lousy movie and as a result I feel ripped off and kind of… used.

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  1. Kyle says:

    I feel you’re missing the point. The film is meant to make you feel like theres nothing that can be done. There cannot be retribution in every film made. Use Irreversible as an example (I’ll try not to spoil it for those that wish to see it). Yes they do take revenge on the villain, however that does not make it okay for you to be relaxed about the victim’s situation. She still has to deal with the turmoil of whats happened. Similar to Irreversible, this film should make you feel disgusted knowing that there is nothing they can do and even if they could, they would be completely mentally unstable coming out of it. The only way for the film to end was the way it did. As for the development of characters…it’s unnecessary. You don’t need to know the characters back story to understand whats going through their head. You find out enough that the two women are a little on the ditsy side. The doctor at first I thought needed explanation for his well-acted crazy, but I realized that most murderers and torturers think irrationally and that was enough for me. I appreciate reading your thoughts on the film and hope you appreciate mine.

  2. Matt Kski says:

    I couldnt agree more.
    I hated this and couldnt wait for it to end.

    BUT its stuck in mind- grossing me out days afterwards

  3. Rich Decker says:

    I have seen the film twice now and had different reactions both times. It is a very disturbing film, even with some rather over the top and cheesy acting. I think it will one day be considered a classic horror film.

  4. chris deleo says:

    there’s lots of cash out there… lots of cash… most of is spent on garbage. Meanwhile talented writers and directors struggle every day to get a phone call returned.

    fun world

  5. you have a typo here:

    “Tom Six’s “The Human Centipede” is a very troubling film and not just because of it’s disgusting subject matter”

    should be “its” instead of “it’s.”

    — ank

  6. Phil Hall says:

    I was asked by E! Online to talk about the marketing of the flick. Hey, anything to get a Film Threat plug in:

  7. Michelle says:

    I remember seeing the previews for Saw and thinking, “Who would make a movie like this? Why? What has our society come to?” It then became so popular there were sequels. Then, this weekend, I accidentally stumbled on the trailer for The Human Centipede (my husband and I were on Fandago wondering what was playing, saw the title and watched the trailer), and felt positively ill that there was: A. not only someone who had this idea in the first place B. but also someone who was willing to produce and mass-market it. I literally felt sick. What’s next? I’m scared to even imagine.

  8. “Pulling the wings off flies” is exactly what this film intended to be. In fact, it’s the aspiration of all horror films in this day and age. My own gag reflex kicked in with the horror films of the 1970’s. It apparently took Mr. Lewis this long to find something he couldn’t tolerate. But that won’t stop the gorehounds and sadistic bastards from flocking to this. Look for student films (which YouTube will not allow to be posted) to make their own copies, and if GoreZone is still being published, they’ll have a “make your own Human Centipede” contest.

  9. Shane Smith says:

    You never know what’s urban legend anymore, but I heard at the casting call in NYC there were about 20-30 females on hand to cast for the 2 Americans and that after the storyline was explained, they all left but the two who got the parts…which would support your “how rough it must have been for these women to get acting roles” theory.

    The word is that this is the first of a trilogy. I don’t see an OLDBOY or LADY VENGEANCE coming out of this one.

  10. Stina Chyn says:

    But with “The Human Centipede” it feels bad to be so affected by such a lousy movie and as a result I feel ripped off and kind of… used.

    Yeah, that kind of scenario leaves a rather pungent aftertaste.

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